Do you have fruit trees growing in your backyard? Are they producing less fruit than they used to? Perhaps it’s time to consider pruning those trees! Pruning is an essential aspect of tree care that can significantly improve fruit yield, tree health, and appearance.
Knowing how to prune your fruit trees properly is important as a homeowner. You can revitalize your trees with the right tools and techniques and ensure your family enjoys a bountiful harvest. This article will provide practical tips for pruning fruit trees in your backyard, from understanding when to prune to proper pruning cuts.
Whether you’re an aspiring horticulturist or looking to improve your backyard’s aesthetic appeal, this guide will equip you with the knowledge and techniques to prune your fruit trees like a pro.
Table of Contents
History Behind Prune Trees
Prior to about 50 years ago, it was standard practice to seal pruning cuts with various paints and tars to prevent decay. This method proved largely ineffective in preventing the spread of infection within a tree since diseases could easily penetrate the open wound.
However, when the hand-held chain saw was introduced, all this changed. An American plant pathologist, Dr. Alex Shigo, began performing the first-ever tree autopsies and made some remarkable findings concerning pruning techniques that changed how trees were managed forever.
Dr. Shigo discovered that trees have defense mechanisms that limit the spread of infection through damaged branches. When they are hurt, chemicals in the tree quickly form a barrier of decay that envelops and isolates the infected area, effectively stemming any further advancement of sickness or disease by blocking its pathways.
By utilizing this knowledge and learning how to make pruning cuts away from the main stem tissue at an angle while avoiding flush cuts (as well as what types of instruments not to use during pruning), tree owners can now effectively safeguard against unhealthy growth patterns and guarantee healthier outcomes over longer periods.
What Do Pruning Fruit Trees Mean?
Pruning fruit trees means cutting away dead or diseased branches and shaping the tree to improve its health, structure, and productivity. Pruning a fruit tree can be done for many reasons, including branch thinning, increasing sunlight exposure, improving air circulation, decreasing pest or disease pressure, controlling size or shape, and promoting fruiting. While pruning can benefit your fruit tree, it is important to understand when and how to prune correctly.
When to Prune Fruit Trees?
Proper pruning of fruit trees is an important step in ensuring your harvest stays healthy, lush, and full. The best time to prune most fruit trees (save for sweet cherries) is early spring, about two weeks after the last frost.
During this dormant period, seeing buds and making cuts that will quickly heal is much easier. Pruning during this period also encourages new growth, which can ensure larger harvests come fall.
Although mid-summer pruning is often less desirable for other fruit trees because it can slow growth, it may be beneficial for sweet cherries as cutting limbs during this period reduces the possible spread of fungal and bacterial diseases.
If done properly, summer pruning may decrease the risk of potential decay on your fruit trees. To get the most out of your pruning efforts, timing is everything, and taking care, thereby reviewing when best to cut to take advantage of these benefits, can surely pay off come harvest time.
Here Are Some Dos And Don’ts While Pruning Fruit Trees
|Do prune during the dormant season||Don’t prune during the active growing season|
|Do remove dead, damaged, or diseased branches||Don’t remove more than 25% of the canopy|
|Do prune to maintain an open canopy||Don’t leave stubs or jagged cuts|
|Do make cuts just outside the branch collar||Don’t cut into the branch collar|
|Do thin out crowded branches for better airflow||Don’t over-prune or excessively thin|
|Do prune to shape the tree and remove suckers||Don’t prune too close to the trunk|
|Do use sharp, clean pruning tools||Don’t leave large pruning wounds|
|Do make clean, precise cuts for faster healing||Don’t prune during frosty or wet conditions|
|Do train young trees with proper pruning||Don’t remove too many fruit-bearing branches|
|Do regularly inspect trees for pruning needs||Don’t neglect pruning for extended periods|
Remember, proper pruning techniques may vary depending on the specific fruit tree species and its growth habit. It’s always a good idea to consult specific pruning guidelines for the type of fruit tree you work with to ensure optimal results.
How to Prune Fruit Trees?
Step-1: Gather the necessary tools
Before you begin pruning, gather the necessary tools, such as shears, loppers, a pruning saw, and protective gear like gloves and safety glasses.
Step-2: Choose the right time
Prune fruit trees during their dormant season, typically in late winter or early spring, before new growth starts. This allows the tree to heal and recover before the growing season begins.
Step-3: Assess the tree
Look closely at the tree and identify any dead, damaged, or diseased branches. Also, assess the overall shape and structure of the tree and identify any areas that need attention.
Step-4: Remove dead and diseased branches
Start by removing any dead, diseased, or damaged branches. Make clean cuts just outside the branch collar (the swollen area where the branch meets the trunk or another branch) to promote healing.
Step-5: Thin out crowded branches
If the tree has branches crossing or crowding each other, selectively thin them out. This helps improve airflow and sunlight penetration, reducing disease risk and promoting better fruit production. Remove the weaker or less desirable branches.
Step-6: Maintain an open canopy
Prune to maintain an open canopy that allows sunlight to reach all parts of the tree. Remove any branches growing inward or toward the tree’s center. Focus on creating a well-balanced structure.
Step-7: Shape the tree
Prune to shape the tree according to your desired form. This can involve maintaining a central leader with well-spaced lateral branches or training the tree to a specific shape, such as an open vase or modified central leader.
Step-8: Remove water sprouts and suckers
Look for water sprouts (rapidly growing vertical shoots) and suckers (shoots emerging from the tree’s base), and remove them. These vigorous shoots usually don’t produce fruit and can divert energy from the tree.
Step 9: Make clean cuts
Use sharp, clean pruning tools to make clean, precise cuts. Avoid leaving stubs or making jagged cuts, as they can hinder healing and invite diseases.
Step-10: Step back and assess
Periodically step back and assess your progress as you prune. Ensure you maintain a balanced shape and remove branches that may interfere with each other’s growth.
Step-11: Clean up and dispose of pruned material
Once you have finished pruning, gather and dispose of the pruned branches appropriately. This helps prevent the spread of diseases and keeps your garden tidy.
Remember, you must consult specific pruning guidelines for the particular fruit tree species you work with, as different trees may have specific requirements. Happy pruning.
Here are 10 Pro Practical Tips For Pruning Fruit Trees in Your Backyard
1. Choose the right tools for pruning – Pruners, loppers, and saws should all be selected based on the size of the branches you’ll be cutting. Use sharp tools in good condition to make clean, efficient cuts.
2. Remove dead or diseased wood – When you are pruning your trees, removing any dead or diseased wood is important. This will help to stop the spread of disease and allow the tree to heal faster.
3. Prune in the dormant season – Aim to prune during a tree’s dormant season, usually late winter or early spring, before new growth starts. Pruning at this time of year helps the tree recover quickly and ensures it can start growing again as soon as possible.
4. Thin-out crowded branches – When pruning, look for branches crossing or crowding each other and thin them out. This will help to improve airflow and sunlight penetration, reducing disease risk and promoting better fruit production.
5. Maintain an open canopy – Prune to maintain an open canopy that allows sunlight to reach all parts of the tree.
Step-6: Improve Structure – Prune to improve the tree’s overall structure. Remove any branches growing inward or toward the tree’s center, and focus on creating a well-balanced structure. Make sure that you leave enough leaves on the tree to ensure it can photosynthesize properly.
Step-7: Remove Water Sprouts & Suckers – Look for water sprouts (rapidly growing vertical shoots) and suckers (shoots emerging from the tree’s base), and remove them. These vigorous shoots usually don’t produce fruit and can divert energy from the tree.
Step-8: Make Clean Cuts – Use sharp, clean pruning tools to make precise cuts. Avoid leaving stubs or making jagged cuts, as they can hinder healing and invite diseases.
Step-9: Step Back & Assess – Periodically assess your progress as you prune. Ensure you maintain a balanced shape and remove branches that may interfere with each other’s growth.
Step-10: Clean Up & Dispose of Pruned Material – Once you have finished pruning, gather and dispose of the pruned branches appropriately. This helps prevent the spread of diseases and keeps your garden tidy.
Frequently Asked Questions [FAQs]
1. When Is The Best Time To Prune Fruit Trees?
The best time to prune fruit trees is during their dormant season, typically in late winter or early spring before new growth begins. Pruning during this time allows the tree to heal quickly and promotes healthy growth.
2. How Much Should I Prune Off My Fruit Tree?
The amount of pruning required depends on the type of fruit tree, its age, and its overall condition. As a general guideline, aim first remove dead, damaged, and diseased branches. Then, thin out crowded branches and shape the tree to maintain an open canopy. Avoid excessive pruning, which can stress the tree and affect fruit production.
3. Can I Prune My Fruit Tree In Summer Or Fall?
It’s generally not recommended to prune fruit trees in summer or fall. Pruning during these seasons can stimulate new growth susceptible to cold temperatures and frost damage. Pruning during the dormant season is preferred to give the tree time to recover before the next growing season.
4. What Tools Do I Need For Pruning Fruit Trees?
You will need a few essential tools for pruning fruit trees, including shears or secateurs for small branches, loppers for thicker branches, a pruning saw for larger limbs, and protective gear like gloves and safety glasses. Having sharp, clean tools is important for making precise cuts and preventing the spread of diseases.
5. Can I Prune A Young Fruit Tree?
Yes, you can and should prune a young fruit tree. Pruning young trees helps establish a strong framework and encourages proper branching and structure. Focus on removing any competing branches, crossing branches, or weak growth. Consult specific pruning guidelines for the particular type of fruit tree to ensure you’re pruning correctly.
Pruning fruit trees is important for promoting healthy growth and successful fruit production. To get the best results, prune during the tree’s dormant season and use sharp, clean tools. Utilizing these tips will help ensure your backyard orchard is beautiful and bountiful.